It's really the perfect place to hang out if you want to be a gymnastics star in high school. It's called the Crystal Lake Gymnastics Training Center. And somewhere in the building you are bound to run into the owneer Lee Bataglia.
And that's clearly where Bataglia ran into a promising gymnast named Riley Mahoney. She wasn't quite ready for high school but that didn't mean she didn't know what she was doing.
You see this is a girl who was ready to hit the mats at age two.
"I really wanted to do it,'' Mahoney said. "I kept asking my my mom if I could do it. I started taking classes."
Mahoney is one gymnast who has put her time in. On Saturday night in Lake Forest, Mahoney and Prairie Ridge took on two-time defending champion Carmel Catholic and Lake Forest, a team that finished second in the state a year ago.
The Wolves did just fine. Led by the freshman Mahoney, and teammate Rachael Underwood, Prairie Ridge finished second (146.225) to Carmel in this 12-team invitational.
Three Carmel gymnasts finished in the top four in this event. However on this night, second place went to the freshman from Prairie Ridge.
"It's her balance beam that makes her so good,'' Bataglia said. "And she's getting mentally tough. At this level, it's about the mental."
On beam, Mahoney rang up a 9.600, good for fourth place. She was fifth on vault (9.750), fourth on the parallell bars (9.400) and seventh in floor exercise (9.400).
"I've worked hard,'' Mahoney said. "I just try and stay focused and do what I can to help. I think I did pretty good tonight."
No doubt to the rest of the invite's guests, this freshman's strong performance was a big surprise. But not to Bataglia and his Wolves team.
"She's been with our club for eight years,'' he said. "She knows how to compete."
As this is a coop gymnastics team, Mahoney and older brother, Ryan (football) attend Cary-Grove High School.
On Saturday, Mahoney was happy with her high score on vault. She was even a little surprised that her coach was bragging about her work on the balance beam.
"I scored my highest on vault,'' Mahoney said. "I just need to stay mentally tough and keep working hard."
Of course she has three years to compete and then think about college. That plan doesn't work for Mahoney. She's ready to think about her future right now.
"I have to put a video together,'' she said.
Gymnastics takes up plenty of time in this ninth-grader's life.
"I have time for school and homework,'' she said.
Recap: Mahoney's teammate, Underwood, helped out with a third-place showing on vault (9.850). She finished 12th on the night in the all-around.
Also helping the Wolves' cause were: Savanna Mensching (sixth on beam, 9.300), Niki Novak (sixth on floor, 9.450), Danielle Dyra (10th on bars, 8.750) and Dylann Perrone (13th on vault, 9.475). Dyra was 17th in all-around.
"They performed like they practiced,'' Bataglia said. "There is a lot of room for improvement. This is my favorite meet of the year."